Chapter 5: The Seal Breaks
*Trigger Warning* This chapter contains mentions of self-harm and suicide that may be triggering to some readers.
King Thunder darted forwards, grabbing the knife just as Lord Snail realized what had happened.
“You’ve been…hurting yourself, haven’t you?” she said, tears forming in her eyes like the little sacs of juice inside citrus fruits.
Lord Snail stayed frozen in place. She stared at the ground with astronomically wide eyes. Just a few minutes ago, her eyes looked fractured but whole, as if the last shreds of her sanity were being held together with tape. Now, the seal was broken. Her mouth said, “I’m fine…I’m fine…I’m fine…” but her face screamed, “Maybe if I keep saying I’m fine, I really will be.”
“No matter how much you say that, it won’t come true unless you let someone help you,” King Thunder choked, trying to restrain the flow of tears. “Please…let me help you, tell me what you need, I…I will do anything for you…”
“There’s nothing you can do,” muttered Lord Snail, “I’ve gone to such depths of hell that nothing can pull me out now. I’m fooling myself by saying I’m fine. I can never be fine again.”
“No! No matter how far gone you are, I will always come back for you! I will follow you to hell and back if it means I can help you!”
Lord Snail finally looked up and met King Thunder’s eyes. “Save yourself the trouble. I’m not worth it.”
Right as King Thunder was about to speak, Lord Snail walked over to the hall next to the living room, then slammed a door shut.
Must be the bedroom, King Thunder thought, I suppose I should give her some privacy.
She sat at the kitchen counter for about an hour, and nearly fell asleep. A shrill scream coming from the bedroom woke her up completely. She burst into the room. “What happened?”
Lord Snail was cowering on the floor. Her whole body shook, and she grasped at her head as if she had a migraine, but a thousand times worse.
King Thunder couldn’t help but notice her surroundings. Not a single shelf or picture lined the walls, a nasty-looking gray carpet enveloped the floor, and the bed stood in the center of the room with the sheets strewn everywhere, as if a tornado had raged through them.
“They’re back…I thought I was safe…I’m an idiot for trying to sleep…” wailed Lord Snail, breathing heavily. She shut her eyes tight, then screamed and opened them again.
King Thunder rushed over to her. “What are you talking about? What’s back? I’m here…talk to me!”
Lord Snail wanted to stay silent, but her inner demons finally tore through her mind and she spoke: “The dreams…the visions…the nightmares…I’m guessing you were wondering why I wasn’t sleeping? I can’t sleep. Every time I try to sleep, the haunts of the past catch up to me. Operation: Butternut…all I see is the knife…my knife, poisoning Cal, sucking the life out of him. He died and it was my fault. The last thing he said was, 'Snail…what have you done…’ He blamed me for his death, and he was right. Don’t tell me that it wasn’t my fault, because it was. I disobeyed my own mission and brought that poisoned knife just for my own personal retribution, but it ended up taking the life of my best friend. My regrets, my mistakes, everything…they stop me from sleeping. Sometimes I try to escape by not sleeping, but…I suffer either way.”
She whispered one last thing that even King Thunder didn’t hear: “And I deserve it.”
King Thunder said nothing at first. Then the tears started coming in. “If I had known what you were going through, I would have come so much sooner…what can I do to help you now?”
“Stay…if you stay, that’s enough.”
King Thunder nodded. “Come here…”
Lord Snail climbed into her arms. Almost free. She wasn’t an emotional person by nature, but she just couldn’t bear her burden of pain all on her own anymore. She sobbed into King Thunder’s chest for what seemed like hours, but for all she knew, it could have been eight seconds. Suffering…what an odd concept. It stretches time in unimaginable ways and shatters hearts, yet brings people closer together.
For the next week afterwards, they lived. They lived? They ate together, they went on walks, they did their best to laugh over goofy stuff. But something still seemed…off. Their smiles were pained, Lord Snail didn’t talk much, and she still hardly slept. King Thunder didn’t expect everything to go back to normal instantly, of course, but she still felt that Lord Snail was hiding something.
On the seventh day of her visit, King Thunder received some messages from Lucius and Jeffrey.
“Helloooooooooooooo king lightning and lord sloth hope u guys are doin great!!!!!!!” - Jeffrey MacCheese 23:03
“Jeff, this is a work computer.” - McNugget Lucius 23:05
“Sorry :(“ - Jeffrey 23:05
“Please disregard the previous messages. Greetings, King Thunder and, presumably, Lord Snail as well. How are you doing? It’s been a week, so all of us, including King Amber III and Awesome, await your return shortly. Things here have been going...I want to say smoothly, but that would be a lie. Jeff had some interesting dealings with the Republicans, and now there are Bundt cakes everywhere, and I’ve been trying to convince Awesome to send a search group to locate the fourth party. He still doesn’t seem to care, so we may have to take action ourselves. Have a good evening. Also, is Lord Snail coming back with you?” - Lucius 23:10
“Yeah, Bundt cakes EVERYWHERE! Wait til u see them all! I say this mission was a complete SUCCESS!!! Lucius doesn’t think so (screw u Lucius)” - Jeffrey 23:11
“Jeff, what did I tell you? We have mobile phones for a reason.” - Lucius 23:12
“Fineeeee. Just one last thing, lets get craisin pies” - Jeffrey 23:12
“Alright, fine. You know my weak spot, don’t you.” - Lucius 23:14
“King Thunder, if ur reading this, Lucius can be easily bribed with craisins” - Jeffrey 23:15
“What? No, you can’t bribe me.” - Lucius 23:17
“I think I could” - Jeffrey 23:17
“Seems I’m a little late to the party, but I see your messages. We’re doing alright, but I’m not sure when exactly I’ll be back. Probably within the next few days or next week. I don’t think that Lord Snail wants to come back. Lucius, that’s what I expected from Awesome, but I think we can figure something out. And Jeff…what? I have so many questions. You’ll have to tell me all about the cakes and the craisins when I get back. Have fun at your…craisin party?” - King Thunder 23:19
“Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” - Jeffrey 23:20
“Bye.” - Lucius 23:21
Good ol’ Jeffrey, she thought as she put her Loptop away, Lord Snail used to get along with him pretty well. He brought out her fun side. And Lucius? She liked talking to him about strategies. She sighed. We’ll never be a complete group again. Cal’s gone, and Lord Snail…
Her eyes moved to where Lord Snail was standing earlier that day, near the window like usual. That’s odd, I thought she was standing there…
King Thunder called Lord Snail’s name. No reply. She flew into a panic, checking every room, even the refrigerator, and calling Lord Snail’s name over and over again. Then, she noticed that the apartment’s front door was hanging open.
She raced out the door like a wind-up monster truck toy. Up or down?, she thought as the two staircases loomed in front of her. A scattering of footprints was visible in the dust covering the staircase heading up, which clearly wasn’t used very often. Without a moment’s hesitation, she continued up the stairs and to the roof.
There was Lord Snail, standing near the ledge, staring up at the starry sky.
“W-What are you doing?” stammered King Thunder. She gasped, “You’re not thinking of…are you?”
Lord Snail turned around to face her, her gaze dead like a mannequin’s. “Not why I came here. But the thought did cross my mind.”
“The thought…crossed your mind? No…you can’t do that! Y -”
Lord Snail cut her off. “I came here to look at the stars. Just to trace their paths, meander in my own thoughts, get lost in the lights. But…yes, the thought crossed my mind. Except it was just a thought, I would never take my own life. Because…I deserve to suffer. Dying is respite from suffering. I don’t deserve to die. I deserve worse.”
King Thunder was as shocked as an electric eel at a circuit convention. She couldn’t decide whether to cry, or scream, or run, or hug Lord Snail, or punch her to expel whatever phantom had possessed her soul.
At last, she said, “You don’t deserve to suffer. And you don’t deserve to die. You deserve to live a happy and peaceful life. You’ve gone through so much pain already, and I’m begging you, don’t continue living like this. I may not be the best person to help you, but, I don’t know, find help somewhere. There’s no shame in seeking help. And…'dying is respite from suffering?’ No, healing is respite from suffering.”
Lord Snail turned to face her. “You’re missing the point here. All this pain…it’s rightfully earned. You can’t deny my crimes.”
“I can’t. But stop forcing yourself to think that you deserve all this pain. Regret for your actions…that’s enough. Regret already eats away at your conscience slowly but surely. That’s enough of a punishment. Whatever you’re doing to yourself…that’s not what you deserve.”
Behind the apartment building they were standing on, a fire burned with the heat of revenge. The flames rose higher and higher, until they were visibly reflecting on Lord Snail’s eyes. The reflection of the swirling plumes created an illusion of ghosts, spirits, phantoms, all sparring in her mind.